Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Lithuania joins calls for no-fly zone above Ukraine

Lithuania’s Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution on Thursday that calls on the UN to “take immediate action to secure a no-fly zone over Ukraine to stop the mass deaths of civilians.”

Lithuania is the second country to officially ask for a no-fly zone above Ukraine, Estonia being the first.

Ukrainian officials have been urging Western allies to impose a no-fly zone over the country for weeks.

But the leaders of NATO, the US and the UK have ruled such a move out, arguing that a no-fly zone could only be enforced by shooting down Russian plans — which they say would only escalate the war.

—Chloé Taylor

Moscow’s claims about Mariupol bombing a ‘sick disgrace,’ US official says

Moscow’s attempts to justify attacks on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol are a “sick disgrace,” a US official said Thursday.

Michael Carpenter, US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said in an address to the organization’s Permanent Council in Vienna that the “heartbreaking” bombing of a theater in Mariupol yesterday — where hundreds of civilians had taken shelter — was an act of “cruelty and evil.”

Mariupol has been the center of intense conflict in recent weeks, with the Red Cross saying that hundreds of thousands of civilians had been trapped in the city. There have since been some successful evacuations, but early attempts to get civilians out of the city were halted when Ukraine said Russian forces were violating cease-fire agreements.

Last week, Moscow claimed that photos of pregnant women being carried out of a bombed maternity hospital in Mariupol were staged, saying there were no patients in the hospital when it was shelled — despite the photographic evidence.

Carpenter told the OSCE Thursday that these claims were “a sick disgrace,” and “abject debasement.”

He added the Kremlin was also spreading “outright lies” about chemical and biological weapons activities in Ukraine.

“It appears that the Russian Federation has so completely lost touch with reality that its only recourse now is to attempt to eliminate all facts and replace them with fabricated falsehoods,” Carpenter said.

A spokesperson for the Russian government was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

—Chloé Taylor

Russia and Ukraine not close to an agreement, Kremlin says

In a regular press briefing Thursday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia and Ukraine were not close to signing an agreement on ending the war.

“Work continues — when there is progress, we will inform,” he said, according to an NBC News translation.

He added that the Russian delegation was “ready to work around the clock,” but claimed that “the Ukrainian side does not show zeal.”

Officials from both the Russian and Ukrainian sides have said in recent days that there has seemed to be hope for compromise in the latest rounds of talks.

—Chloé Taylor

Kremlin says Biden labeling Putin a war criminal was ‘inadmissible’

US President Joe Biden’s branding of Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a war criminal is “inadmissible,” the Kremlin said Thursday.

“Such statements by Biden are absolutely inadmissible and inexcusable,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters at a regular briefing.

“And most importantly, the head of [the] state which bombed people all over the world for many years, dropped atomic bombs on a country that had already been defeated, cannot have the right to make them. The president of such a country has no right to such words at all, this is our deep conviction.”

Biden said Wednesday that he believes Putin “is a war criminal” for his attacks on Ukraine, marking the first time Biden has publicly labeled Putin with that descriptor.

—Chloé Taylor

9 humanitarian corridors opened across Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers help an elderly woman to cross a destroyed bridge as she evacuates the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 7, 2022.

Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine’s Presidential Office has confirmed that nine humanitarian corridors have been agreed to allow the evacuation of civilians on Thursday.

The confirmation came after Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced earlier in the morning that the routes had been negotiated.

Civilians will be evacuated from towns and cities in the Donetsk region, the Kyiv region and the Kharkiv region, Vereshchuk said.

—Chloé Taylor

There are survivors in rubble of bombed Mariupol theater, local official tells BBC

The bomb shelter inside the Mariupol theater hit by Russian shelling yesterday has held up, a local official has told the BBC.

Dmytro Gurin, a lawmaker from the besieged city, told the BBC Thursday that more than 1,000 women and children had taken shelter in the theater. But authorities were not yet aware if anyone had been injured or killed, he added.

Russia has denied being responsible for the bombing.

Satellite images taken on March 14 by US government-linked Maxar appear to show the theater prior to the bombing, with the word “children” spelled out — in Russian — in large letters in front of and behind the building.

—Chloé Taylor

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy calls out German lawmakers

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy receives standing ovations before he addresses the German Bundestag via live video from Kyiv on March 17, 2022.

Hannibal Hanschke | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has addressed lawmakers in Germany’s Bundestag.

Speaking via videolink, Ukraine’s President warned that “obviously sanctions are not enough to stop this war.”

He accused Germany of acting too late to help Ukraine, and of prioritizing its own economy over ending the conflict.

Germany has been criticized for what many view as meager investment in its military and a slow and lackluster response to Russia’s military buildup around, and subsequent invasion of, Ukraine.

“Not all of you notice yet, but you’re not behind the Berlin wall now, you’re in the middle of Europe,” Zelenskyy said to German politicians on Thursday.

“If you just look over this wall, you will see… you could have done a Berlin air bridge to make our skies safe.”

Zelenskyy warned that if Germany did not take more action to stop the war, “Europe will not survive, will not preserve its values.”

Appealing directly to Germans who lived through the Second World War, Zelenskyy added: “Every year the politicians say: ‘Never again.’ These words are not worth anything.”

“Where is your leadership?” he said. “Why is the country beyond the Atlantic closer to us than you? There’s a wall. [As] former US President Ronald Reagan said in Berlin, break down this wall. And I want to say to you, Chancellor Scholz, break down this wall.”

—Chloé Taylor

Russia denies bombing theater where civilians were sheltering

Image appearing to show theater in Mariupol on March 14, prior to its bombing on March 16. The image appears to show the word “children” spelled out in Russian in front of and behind the theater.

Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

Russia on Wednesday denied its forces had bombed a theater in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where more than a thousand civilians were said to be sheltering.

The bombing of the theater was condemned by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as a war crime.

“Today the invaders destroyed the Drama Theatre. A place where more than a thousand people found refuge,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said in a statement late Wednesday night. “We will never forgive this.”

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement Wednesday that it denied allegations it was responsible for the attack, claiming that its forces “did not perform any tasks related to imposing strikes on ground targets in Mariupol” on March 16.

Satellite images from Maxar taken on March 14 appear to show the theater prior to the bombing, with the word “children” spelled out — in Russian — in large letters in front of and behind the building.

Maxar provides 90% of the foundational geospatial intelligence used by the US government for national security.

Details of victims of the bombing have not yet been released.

Authorities have struggled to evacuate residents from Mariupol, where the Red Cross says hundreds of thousands of people have been trapped by the conflict. There have been successful evacuations in recent days, but early evacuation attempts had to be halted because Ukrainian authorities said Russia was violating cease-fire agreements in the city.

—Chloé Taylor

53 people were killed in Chernihiv yesterday, governor says

Viacheslav Chaus, governor of the Chernihiv region, said Thursday via Telegram that Russian attacks had led to multiple civilian deaths on Wednesday.

“We suffer great losses. Just yesterday, the city morgues received 53 bodies of our citizens who were killed by the Russian aggressor,” he said.

CNBC has not been able to independently verify the figures.

—Chloé Taylor

27 homes destroyed in Luhansk, official says

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional state administration, said Thursday morning that at least 27 houses in the city of Rubizhne had been set on fire in shelling strikes overnight.

“The Russians made hell in Rubizhne on the night of March 16-17, and the shelling lasted all night,” he said in a Telegram post.

Haidai said there had also been fires in the cities of Popasna and Sievierodonetsk, and that information about victims of the bombings was being clarified.

“The townspeople are losing their relatives, their homes are burning,” he said. “However, the Russian army continues to purposefully fire on civilians who are not even allowed to leave safely.”

CNBC has not been able to independently verify the details of the attacks.

—Chloé Taylor

Kyiv airstrike kills 1, Ukrainian authorities say

One person was killed in Kyiv in the early hours of Thursday morning when an apartment block was bombed, Ukraine’s State Emergency Services have said.

The multi-story building in the Darnytsky district of the capital caught fire after being hit by a missile, authorities said.

“According to preliminary information, 30 people were evacuated, three of whom were injured,” the SES said in a statement. “One person has been killed. The information is being specified.”

—Chloé Taylor

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

Russian invasion ‘largely stalled on all fronts,’ says UK ministry

Russian forces have made “minimal” progress in their invasion of Ukraine in recent days and continue to suffer heavy losses, the UK Ministry of Defense said Thursday.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has largely stalled on all fronts,” including land, sea and air, the ministry said in an intelligence update.

Ukrainian resistance remains stubborn and well coordinated, the ministry said, with all major Ukrainian cities and most territory still in Ukrainian hands.

Russia’s foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.

— Ted Kemp

Russia resorting to ‘older, less precise’ weapons

Russian forces attacking Ukraine are likely turning to less precise heavy weapons that are less effective from a military standpoint and more likely to kill civilians, a European government said.

The UK Defense Ministry said late Wednesday local time that Russia has expended more of its “stand-off air launched weapons” than it had expected, because it has failed to achieve its objectives or to gain control of Ukrainian airspace.

“Stand-off” weaponry refers to missiles that Russian aircraft can fire from a long distance without exposing themselves to Ukrainian anti-aircraft weapons. Ukraine’s anti-aircraft capabilities are still active and taking down Russian helicopters and jets.

“As a result, it is likely Russia is resorting to the use of older, less precise weapons, which are less militarily effective and more likely to result in civilian casualties,” the ministry said in an intelligence update.

Weapons like rockets, “dumb” unguided bombs, and long-range artillery are less accurate and therefore more likely to hit unintended targets.

Russia’s foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.

According to the most recent confirmed UN figures, more than 700 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since the invasion began, but the actual number is likely to be much higher.

Death tolls from cities under artillery bombardment, such as Kharkiv and Mariupol, are unknown.

— Ted Kemp


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